I was confused in many ways in 1975. I'd forgotten that until I took a glance at the top hits of the year, and then it all came back.
I was twenty years old, newly married; torn between my new home and my old, dysfunctional life. Funny thing about dysfunction -- you think you yearn to get away from it, but it pulls you back because that's your "normal". The thing regular people don't understand about kids of alcoholics is, you glom onto the familiar, as awful as it is, for dear life; because that's what you know. It's safe -- in a psychotic way.
I kept coming back. I'd tried the real world and didn't like it much. I'd had a regular job for a year; a job that pulled me deep into new dysfunction. I didn't know if it followed me like a heavy cloud or if the whole world was crazy. (In hindsight, I realize that, yes, the whole world is crazy; but I was young and naive.) Nevertheless, I fled -- back to the waiting arms of my parents who didn't exactly welcome me home, but who needed an able-bodied motel maid who could pick up the task with no training.
I wasn't ready to live my own life. I was scared of the world. I no longer had a best friend who'd slay the dragons for me. My marriage was one of convenience; a couple of kids who thought they could do no better. I had no connection to my husband. We struggled to tolerate one another. Mom and Dad were nuts, but they were at least nuts that I knew intimately.
Musically, life revolved around songs that other people liked. It wasn't that I didn't have definite tastes of my own, but I sublimated those, because I was a scared coward and afraid of being scorned if I expressed an opinion.
Mom and Dad had a long walnut console stereo in the corner of the living room. Dad was enthralled, for a while, with a guy who made a record imitating Richard Nixon -- David Frye, I think his name was. Dad thought Frye was hilarious. I found it tedious after the hundredth listen.
The stereo also had a slot where one could shove eight-track tapes in. Eight-tracks were one of those failed musical experiments. Eight-tracks came on the scene just prior to cassette tapes. They were portable, if one had an automobile that accommodated them. The big drawback of eight-tracks was that the tape stopped smack-dab in the middle of a song and one had to flip the tape over and re-shove it into the slot to hear the rest of the song. That sort of ruined the whole musical experience. Dad had Ray Stevens and a couple of other artists I no longer remember. In total, he owned three eight-track tapes, so I heard Ray Stevens over and over and over.
In an effort to imitate a normal life, Mom purchased LP's that she played on the console. In my opinion then, Mom didn't actually like music -- she was a pretender. Today I have decided to give Mom a break. Who actually doesn't like music? Everybody likes music in some form. She did, though, seem a slave to the charts; as if she had no musical opinions of her own and had to rely on the words of the local DJ to tell her what was good. In reality, she was in love with Ray Price, who she considered a "hunk". I, on the other hand, didn't judge music by how the artist looked. Shoot, I thought Eddie Rabbitt was a country god, and he was ugly as sin.
My mom and dad played singles like this on their ugly coffin-like stereo console:
My mom and dad played singles like this on their ugly coffin-like stereo console:
Mom was always buying records by artists like Billy "Crash" Craddock and Conway Twitty and Mac Davis. Usually they weren't even number one songs. I have somehow come into possession of all Mom's singles and I recognize only a paltry few. I think maybe she was simply a '45 collector.
Dad loved this next song. One of his idiosyncrasies was that he loved Latin music; all the better if the lyrics were in Spanish. Dad knew no Spanish, but I guess it just sounded nice to him.
Thanks to one of Dad's three eight-track tapes, I love this next track still today:
After my work day was done, or after one of our interminable family gatherings, I went home and played the singles I liked -- on my own crappy (JC Penney) stereo -- which was, of course, better because it had detachable speakers and it didn't look like someone had just been sprinkled with holy water inside it.
Best song, bar none, of 1975:
Weirdly, Tanya Tucker has very few live performance videos on YouTube. Who does she think she is -- Prince? Nevertheless, in '75, Tanya was still a hot artist. I like this one (with guest vocals by Glen):
There was this new girl who appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. She was doing old songs (old songs -- even ones I didn't know). I bought her first album because I liked her sound; I knew nothing about her. Here is a sample (with guest appearance on mandolin by a very young Vince Gill):
Merle was still going strong. Unfortunately there are no live videos of this song, just like all of Merle's seventies hits. I don't know where he went, but he wasn't appearing on TV anymore.
I won't feature songs by Ronnie Milsap and Gary Stewart, because I've recently featured them in other posts, but suffice it to say, the three big artists for me in 1975 were Gene, Ronnie, and Gary.
And, of course, Glen Campbell had the number one hit of the year, but if you want more of Glen, please see Still On The Line.
Now, the elephant in the room:
Like many (most) country fans in 1975, I resented interlopers swooping in and collecting country awards. They were trying to change country. I didn't want country changed. I liked it just fine, thank you. It started in 1974 with a girl who had three names -- and she wasn't even American! Sure, "If You Love Me, Let Me Know" was catchy. She didn't, however, have a tear in her voice; and where was the twang? Yea, she would later go on to star in one of the guiltiest of movie pleasures of all time, but I didn't know that! I wasn't telepathic! And she won the 1974 CMA female vocalist of the year award! Over Loretta Lynn and Tanya!
Then it got only worse. In 1975, previous Entertainer of the Year Charlie Rich fetched a lighter out of his pocket and set fire to the card that announced the new award winner. (I just gotta say, that was one of the very best entertainment spectacles of all time. Kudos, Charlie!)
I had an intense, fiery hatred for the new guy. I didn't know what he was supposed to be -- was he country or folk or some weird hybrid? He seemed to me like a pretender -- somebody who was trolling for award trophies. The very last time I talked to Alice on the phone, she informed me that she was really "into" this new guy, and I thought scornfully, well, she's gone over to the other side. How ironic. The person who'd originally tugged me into the bright light that was country had now become a turncoat. Thanks, and, oh -- enjoy your Roberta Flack records.
I can't say that I ever became a huge John Denver fan, but I grew to appreciate him. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is a sublime song (although not written by John). This, however, made JD soar to the heights of country music stardom:
This post could have ended with John Denver, but oh no....
Much like eight-track tapes, 1975 was the year of completely unnecessary inventions. Remember those old K-Tel commercials for things nobody knew they wanted, and actually didn't want? The pocket fisherman was probably my favorite. Because one never knows when they'll be strolling down a sunny path on their break from the business meeting and thinks, damn! If only I had a fishing rod, I could reel in some of those tasty trout!
And don't forget Mr. Microphone!
Well, CB radios were just as useless! From what I can gather, long-haul truckers used CB radios to tell other truckers where the "smokies" were hiding out. Not really germane for someone like me, who traversed The Strip about seven miles from home to work. And not exactly relevant for anyone. Regardless, CB's became the latest fad. They were like Rubik's cubes -- completely pointless and needlessly aggravating. The mid-seventies were a time of bumpkins who would fall for anything. Seriously. We loved lime green and orange. And afghans, preferably in orange and lime green hues. And shiny, slippery polyester. Honestly, the seventies, in my mind, are a low-hanging, foreboding cloud. They're best forgotten, as if they'd never happened.
Without further comment, here is "Convoy":
Can I be blamed for being confused in '75? It was a confusing, confounding time. I wasn't quite an adult, although I pretended to be -- yearned to be. Music was a bridge, albeit tottering, from my old life to my new.
And it was about to get worse....